May 26, 2024  
2021-2022 Graduate Catalog 
2021-2022 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Public Administration, M.P.A.

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Karen Miller, Ph.D., Department Chair

Julie Cencula Olberding, Ph.D., Graduate Program Director


Program Description

The Master of Public Administration (MPA) is an applied 36 credit hour degree designed to prepare students for careers in public service and public management. Classes are small, permitting faculty to personalize instruction and allowing students to develop  the knowledge and skills necessary for competitive employment in the public and related sectors, including government agencies, hospitals, universities, and other nonprofit organizations. It is the only MPA program in the Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati region accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA), and one of only seven in the state of Kentucky.

The MPA degree can be completed in a fully online format or in hybrid format with a mix of in-person and online classes. To accommodate students’ work schedules,  in-person and online synchronousclasses are taught on weekday evenings. Other formats include online asynchronous classes, independent study, and study abroad. Classes have a mix of lectures, seminars, small group discussions, service learning, and/or computer-based work (e.g., data analysis and GIS)

The MPA program takes approximately two years with students enrolling in 6 credit hours per semester in the fall, spring, and summer semesters. Students can accelerate this pace by taking 9 to 12 credit hours per semester, or they can choose a slower the pace (due to work or other commitments) by taking 3 credit hours per semester or by not enrolling in summer sessions. For more current information about the MPA program, consult the website at

In addition to the MPA degree, the department offers Nonprofit Management and Emergency Management graduate certificates, each of which requires a total of 18 credit hours Students can efficiently earn a dual MPA degree and graduate certificate for a total of 39 credit hours (more information below). Also, our MPA courses are part of at least five micro-credentials at NKU including: 1) Arts Administration; 2) Leadership in the Public Sector; 3) Disaster Readiness;  4) GIS and Mapping; and 5) Serving Veterans and Families. Each micro-credential requires a total of 6 to 9 credit hours. More information at:

Office of the MPA Program

The main office of the MPA program is 555 Founders Hall. For more information call (859) 572-5326, e-mail or visit

Program Mission Statement

The MPA program helps meet the fundamental need for public service professionals in the Northern Kentucky / Greater Cincinnati region and beyond by developing students to manage and lead government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and related entities. Students enhance their knowledge and skills through engaged learning including capstone projects, service learning, student philanthropy, applied research, internships, and study abroad. In addition, students deepen their public service values through extracurricular speakers and events, service and social activities by our student organization, mentorships and other connections with our alumni network, and our chapter of the Pi Alpha Alpha global honor society and develops students to lead and manage in government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and related public service entities in the Northern Kentucky / Greater Cincinnati region and beyond. Students enhance their knowledge and skills through hands-on experiential learning such as capstone projects, service-learning projects, student philanthropy, internships, and study abroad.

MPA Core Competencies

  1. The ability to lead and manage in public governance.
  2. The ability to participate in and contribute to the policy process.
  3. The ability to analyze, synthesize, think critically, solve problems and make decisions.
  4. The ability to articulate and apply a public service perspective.
  5. The ability to communicate and interact productively with a diverse and changing workforce and citizenry.

The program systematically collects information from various sources to assess these core competencies. These sources include student surveys, alumni surveys, capstone portfolio reviews, capstone project evaluations, internship evaluations, service-learning project assessments, other class and feedback from stakeholders including MPA Advisory Board members, and regional employers.

 Admission Process

Students applying for admission into the MPA program are divided into two applicant categories: in-career and pre-career. In-career applicants are those who demonstrate five years of professional experience pre-career students are all other applicants. Each applicant must provide the following s items:

Completed online application for graduate admission.

Official transcripts showing all college/university coursework completed at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The applicant must possess a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university with a cumulative GPA of 2.75 or higher (scale of 4.0).

At least two recommendation letters or completed forms from persons qualified to evaluate the applicant’s potential for successful performance in the MPA program.

A statement of purpose describing the applicant’s career goals, how the MPA program will support attainment of those goals, and any additional information such as relevant academic or professional experience (300 to 400 words).



In-career students must submit the following items:


A current resume documenting five years of work experience in the public or related sector.

A portfolio of two to three work products (singular or team efforts) that demonstrate professional activities.



Pre-career students must submit the following items:


If undergrad GPA is 3.0 or higher, a writing sample (either an academic paper or work product

If undergrad GPA is below 3.0, official scores of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general test, Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), or Miller Analogies Test; the LSAT is not a suitable substitute.

Dual MPA Degree and Graduate Certificate

Students may complete a dual  MPA degree and graduate certificate, either in  Nonprofit Management or Emergency Management. To do so, students must submit separate applications for the MPA degree and for the graduate certificate via Students seeking the dual MPA degree and Nonprofit Management certificate must take PAD 620, PAD 621, and PAD 622. Similarly, students seeking the dual MPA degree and Emergency Management certificate must take PAD 681 and either PAD 682 or PAD 683. Further, all dual students must complete an additional 3 credit hours of MPA electives beyond the 36 credit hours for the degree, raising the total credit hours 39 hours.

Students completing the MPA program may also earn related micro-credentials. To do so, students must submit separate applications for the MPA degree and micro-credentials via Students seeking related micro-credentials may use these micro-credential courses as electives in the MPA program.

Program Curriculum

To earn the Master of Public Administration degree, students are required to complete a core curriculum of 27 credit hours of classes and 9 credit hours of elective work for a total of 36 credit hours.

♦ Indicates prerequisite.

Intermediate Core Courses (required) (9 credit hours)

The following three courses are required if they have not already been successfully completed as electives at the undergraduate level. These courses may be waived by the MPA Admission Committee, after review of transcripts and consultation with the student.

Total Hours: 36

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